Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The thought I dare not think

My heart has been racing as the news reports have continued to stream in.

The details build up and fill my head until I'm dizzy, and though the words on the screen spin in front of my eyes I scan each update on Yahoo news and CNN and MSNBC, and think: please don't say it, please don't say it, please don't say it.

I've been afraid to name my fear, to say the words out loud - as though by giving them shape I will somehow make it so. And so it's continued to build inside me as I've wondered, Is anyone else bracing for it? Does anyone else see the storm clouds forming?

I've just discovered that Bev at Asperger Square 8 shares my trepidation. And now I know that I have company as I continue to hold my breath and hope the storm passes us by.

49 comments:

Club 166 said...

I just cruised over here, after posting my own fears on the subject.

This is something that constantly lurks under the surface for a lot of us.

Agatha said...

You're not alone. And I expect that even if there are several words that could be used to describe him, only one will be said.

Mamaroo said...

I've been holding my breath here ever since the descriptions of him have been coming out more.

Steve said...

Yes, I thought the same thing this morning as I saw a bit of his background on the news this morning.
Tick, tick...

Wendy said...

You are not alone. I've been feeling the exact same fear.

kirsten said...

oh. no.
OH! NO!

mcewen said...

So when would be a good time to exhale in a sigh of relief, when 'someone' says it aloud [say on the radio] or after someone else says hogwash.
We could club together and buy a catering vat of ear plugs!

Mike said...

Sometimes I'm glad I don't watch/read the real news and only barely understand what you are talking about, unfortunately probably too much, but barely all the same.

Amy said...

My husband and I just had the same conversation over the morning paper. Our son's official diagnosis is selective mutism (I'll save my thoughts on whether that's really a separate diagnosis from autism spectrum stuff for another day). You're not alone.

Bev said...

Thanks MOM-NOS, and others. I feel less alone with this fear, knowing I'm not the only one. It's eerie how similar our posts are, MOM, both in what we say and don't say. Something very universal and specific about this kind of fear.

Anonymous said...

do you fear that he was never really diagnosed and that he lived for so long with all the pressures of Autism with no assistance pr do you fear that your child will be guilty by association?

Did you feel the same way while waiting for the shooter's identity to be revealed: oh, I hope he's not white, or not black, or not green (whatever color you happen to be).

Maybe if someone says it, and it's true, awareness will increase. I think it is steretypical of you to assume that people will think your son has psychotic tendendicies if it is shown that this boy also was on the Spectrum. Do you expect people to assume that all South Koreans are capable of such a thing? Aren't you just perpetuating the discrimination you are so afraid of?

Ange said...

On Oprah today there was discussion of the fear of backlash on Asians because of this tragedy. It seems that people look for someone, something tangible to blame, someone/something to focus their anger on... and then it is unfortunately generalized. I haven't watched much on the tragedy because I get sick of all of the speculation the media does to fill in the gaps inbetween [somewhat] factual airtime. I too hope that inaccurate 'diagnoses' aren't carelessly tossed out to the masses and that generalizations aren't further perpetuated.

MOM-NOS said...

Anonymous, I don't really fear that people will make sweeping generalizations about South Korean people as a result of this incident, because the descriptions that are emerging in the news are not qualities that are typically characteristic of most people of South Korean descent. However, they are characteristics shared by many people with ASD. (And by characteristics, I don't mean the violent writing or things like that. Did you follow the link to Bev's post? She enumerates them well.)

I am already concerned that because of many of the messages in the media lately, people are forming a negative view of children with autism. On Oprah a couple of weeks ago, I heard someone say something like "A bad day with autism is a bad day. A good day with autism is a bad day waiting to happen." When messages like that sit out there unchallanged, I think about who is hearing them and what kind of contact they might have with my son.

For example, what about the parents of the neurotypical children in Bud's class? Do they worry now that they are sending their child to school every day with a child who is a "bad day waiting to happen"? And if so, then what does that mean for Bud?

And the stakes are so much greater in a situation like this, as was clear in the aftermath of a horribly tragic incident in Massachusetts several months ago. (Joe from Club 166, who left the first comment on this post, makes reference to that incident in his most recent post, if you're not sure what I'm referring to.)

Ange said...

I thought I should add that that was the comment made by Lisa Ling. It was something she thought when the media first released that the shooter was "Asian" before they new who he really was, that he was from South Korea, before they started with all of the loner, horrific writing, etc. business. When Oprah asked Ms. Ling if she still feared a backlash, I don't recall her giving a clear answer one way or another.

Anonymous said...

MomNos--I totally understand your concerns and thoughts--nobody wants to be assumed to be like anyone else.

But I fear that by saying we assume that people will think the worst of our children because they may/may not share the same diagnosis, we are perpetuating a type of stereotype/prejudice where we think that THEY can't possibly understand what it means to be US

Does that make sense?

MOM-NOS said...

That does make sense, Anonymous. I don't mean to suggest that I think the average well-meaning person would think ill of Bud because of narrow-mindedness or mean-spiritedness, but because in the absence of real-life experience, we all tend to fill in the blanks with the information that's provided to us. In this case, I fear that there could be overwhelming suggestions, innuendo, or framing of the issue in the media that could result in inaccurate assumptions being made by the "average" person who has no real-life experience to balance it.

The communication theorist Marshall McLuhan posited that "the medium is the message," suggesting that cultural and societal changes result (often in unanticipated ways) by the emergence of any new medium (with medium being defined as anything from which a change emerges).

McLuhan said, "Control over change would seem to consist in moving not with it but ahead of it. Anticipation gives the power to deflect and control force." So, in this situation, with the medium being a tragic event, I am anticipating the possible message that might emerge, and wondering what can be done to ensure that the resulting societal change doesn't have significant negative implications for my son.

That's a long-winded response, I know, but it's how I tend to deal with things when I'm under stress.

neil said...

Wow, I hadn't considered any of this till I got here, but what I will say is that there were 30,000 odd gun related deaths in America last year, were these shootings all by autistic people? A lot of these deaths, about half, are suicides from people suffering with depression, which by the way also matches some of the descriptors being assigned to the gunman. So who are all the other people doing the shootings? Should we worry that all of them are autistic? I can't and I won't, neither should any of you. I'm as proud of my daughter as any parent and as a school councillor at her autistic school, I have contact with many of the students and do not think that any of them are potential killers any more than someone I pass by in the street. I think that I would have more chance of being struck by lightning than being murdered by someone with autism, certainly the chances are greater that I could be murdered by someone without autism and I have never seen any evidence to suggest that autism is making murderers out of anyone. People kill for a variety of reasons, terrorism, anger, greed and so on, and sure, someone with autism could be a murderer, but autism wouldn't be the reason.

Club 166 said...

Well, now that the killer's "manifesto" that he sent to NBC has been released (and broadcast all over the airwaves), it is obvious that Seung was anything but autistic. Perhaps paranoid schizophrenic, but definitely not autistic.

But it is still true that when catastrophes happen (natural or otherwise) we, as humans, tend to try to categorize things and make associations. We also seem to have an inbred fear of "the other". These things can combine to make the public make generalizations that are totally uncalled for when thinking about those that are strange to them, like autistics.

Joeymom said...

Still holding my breath here. I am sorry this person did not get the support and services they needed. Desperately. But every time I read the description from the English professor, I pray hard. Please don't say it... please don't say it...

Kevin said...

On a certain Yahoo message board they're already saying it. Fore Sam is (as you can see) blaming it on Neurodiversity but even there, this view is not very popular.

Once demonisation begins, the thin end of the wedge becomes the thick end very, very quickly.

Anonymous said...

Mom-Nos--thank you for your further explanation. I appreciate your writing, your thoughtfulness, and a chance to delurk :)

Jan B said...

I blogged about this the day it happened and mainly because it was so like my son. Not the autistic kid, but the schizophrenic one. I hate to say I told the blogosphere so, but I did. Every mass shooting by young men brings this back to the front of my mind when I try so hard to push the memories back.

He wasn't autistic. But there is a very strong possibility that he was schizophrenic and most certainly psychotic. Scary thing is that there are a lot of people like him out there.

lizziehoop said...

I just saw it on CNN.com. The dreaded A word is right in the article. I screamed at that top of my lungs and came here. My husband is on his way to Virginia with his students for a couple of days and 3 of his Korean students are worried about their safety. Now I need to worry about the safety of my son. I am 2 hours away from a team meeting at the school where all out war is going to be waged against a teacher who is prejudice and discriminates against my son because of his disability. What is this revelation going to do to the rest of us that have been working so hard??
Liz

kristen said...

Here it is in case anyone missed it:

"Cho's great-aunt, Kim Yang-soon, said Cho was diagnosed with autism after coming to U.S. in 1992. Speaking from her home in South Korea, she described Cho as "very cold" and said her niece was constantly worried about him."

from cnn.com

MOM-NOS said...

Lizzie and Kristen, can you post the link to the quote you saw? Someone e-mailed me this link, which apparently had the text Kristen quoted when she read it. But by the time I followed the link, the article read:

"Cho's great-aunt, Kim Yang-soon, described Cho as 'very cold' and said her niece was constantly worried about him, according to a translation from the AP."

My hunch is that the Korean word for "autism" must be very similar to the Korean word for "very cold", and the real meaning of what she said was misinterpreted in the first report.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly it's been removed and updated. You can see on Kev's blog how the original quote read, as jypsy posted it exactly from the earlier version of the CNN on-line article.

MOM-NOS said...

I just read this article on cnn.com, titled Virginia shooter spoke little as child, which quotes his uncle:

(He) was a worry to his family because he didn't speak much as a child, his uncle said Thursday, and there were even concerns he might be mute.

But there were no early indications that the South Korean student who killed 32 people and himself at Virginia Tech had serious problems, said the uncle, who requested to be identified only by his last name, Kim.

(He) "didn't talk much when he was young. He was very quiet, but he didn't display any peculiarities to suggest he may have problems," Kim told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "We were concerned about him being too quiet and encouraged him to talk more."


No mention of any particular diagnosis anywhere in the article.

Anonymous said...

I read that quote from the uncle yesterday. The quote from the great-aunt, in a separate article, was posted on-line earlier today. That article has been revised at least three times.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of reasons that a child doesn't talk much. Autism is probably the most benign of those possible causes.

When my son was in 4th grade, one of the room parents stared telling everyone he had been abused. She didn't know about his diagnosis of autism. While I was quite upset by the allegation, I couldn't deny the similarites in autistic and child abuse symptoms.

I think it's important to remember that antisocial personality disorder is more prevelant than autism, and that it IS at the root of this kind of violence.

Just because two things might look alike, doesn't mean they are at all alike. If parents of autistic people can't understand this, then how can we presume to protect our INNOCENT children?

MOM-NOS said...

I should have explained why I posted that quote, Anonymous. I was taking it as a good sign that the uncle and the article were NOT making autism claims. I didn't mean to suggest that I think the article points to a diagnosis.

I agree that "Just because two things might look alike, doesn't mean they are at all alike." That's the point I've been trying to make all along... though perhaps I haven't made it as well as I'd hoped if you drew the opposite conclusion.

lizziehoop said...

It has been revised since I saw it. I did email the link to someone (Susan - you out there? Did you save it?). I thought it would stick around forever in cyberspace. I know it was there and it was the great aunt that said it. She also called him an idiot at the end of the article. I hope it was a mistake.
Liz

lizziehoop said...

http://edition.cnn.com/
in the intro under the picture it says autism. it is no longer in the article. I now have a screen shot I can email if you need it :)

Liz

Rachel said...

I have the same fear. Not only that, I am afraid that because the paper I read felt the need to point out that he was a loner, that there will be people who draw the conclusion that ALL introverted people people are potential mass murderers.

mel said...

Did someone post thisbr/>
Ack. The grandfather sounds like a lovely man. Cringe.

Mel
www.freakparade.wordpress.com

Moi ;) said...

Here's the link to the article on CNN that confirms what the aunt said.

AutismLink has already put out a statement. I posted about it earlier.

I think it would be better for them to come out and say it so they can back it up. But I also think the Wrights are making NBC and MSNBC keep this under wraps.....

Moi ;) said...

OK, I just read that they changed it. Sneaky.....

Grrr. o

Moi ;) said...

OMG Mel, NO but I Will post it!!!

How stupid was it of CNN to take that down??? I mean, why would AutismLink make a statement if they hadn't seen it SOMEwhere???? Hmm?

mom4ckp said...

Many of us in the autism community have had that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs that there was going to be some link or potential link between the VT shooter and autism. Personally, I don’t want to give this person any more spot light. I do however want to help the autism community to remain strong through what could be a rough blow to the progress that we have been making in educating the general population about autism.

Now more than ever we need to remain strong and confident. We need to voice ourselves calmly and rationally. We can share our first hand knowledge and information about what autism is and how it affects our families. In general, people do not realize what autism is, what the spectrum is, and how very different it can be from individual to individual.

We need to be clear that the Virginia Tech shooter had many more
issues than just autism or aspergers. IF autism was even part of the long list of issues that he was diagnosed with.

I am mom to 3 children. Two are on the spectrum. I have always stated that my sons are not defined by their diagnoses. If the only thing you know about my sons is the fact that they are diagnosed with autism, you do not know them at all. Even if you are a person familiar with autism. They are even very different from each other!

The reverse is also true. To know one person with autism is just that - you know ONE person with autism. That one person does not define autism.

We need to continue to progress in educating the public about autism. Please be certain to help raise awareness of the many wonderful facets of autism, of the blessings we have been so lucky to have in our families. Help to educate others, to help them understand and accept.

This is a great mission. We have been fortunate to have the opportunity to improve the world. Please continue to bring positive light to the world of autism.

MOM-NOS said...

Well said, mom4ckp! Thank you.

redhead said...

Here's Autism Speaks' response:

http://www.autismspeaks.org/press/va_tech_tragedy_statement.php

MOM-NOS said...

I have to say, regardless of whatever other issues I may have with Autism Speaks, that was very well stated. Thanks for passing it on, redhead.

Moi ;) said...

It turns out Autism Speaks pulled their statement. Durn - I wanted to read it!! Did anyone make a screen shot? I guess we have to get in the practice of doing that from now on. @@

What is going ON here, though? This is too weird... We have to be able to do damage control. It's still all over the internet from the South Korean newspaper and a lot of other newspapers all over the world (links are on my blog). Someone went from the Mirror to South Korea and talked to these people.

Oh, and Mom4ckp - very well said!

MOM-NOS said...

Moi, I can still access it. It says:

"Autism Speaks Statement Regarding the Virginia Tech Tragedy:

Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of the victims of the Virginia Tech tragedy, and we hold them in our thoughts and prayers. Autism is a serious developmental, neurobiological disorder that impairs a person's ability to communicate and interact socially. To imply that people with autism are violent and that Cho Seung-Hui's rampage occurred because he may have suffered from autism is irresponsible and incites prejudice. This is not what the Virginia Tech community, families living with autism or the country needs at this time."

Ginger said...

Hello all,

Even if his diagnosis is rock solid confirmed, I just don't think that
it will end up making much of a ripple.

I wrote about it today in a long post here:

http://tinyurl.com/2mkbky

Autism is to common and autistic killers are to rare for people to really believe that this guys actions were a direct result of his autism. (again if it is confirmed) I really believe that people will at worst see it as Autism+Psychosis=Shooter.

I was watching Heraldo, King of Drama today(God help me), and the autism theory was brought up and discussed for a minute, but the role that bullying or SSRI side effects were discussed at 10 times the length.

If the media is not jumping on the Autism as a direct cause, I think that is a sign that the rest of the world will not really do it either.

Ginger

MOM-NOS said...

Thanks, Ginger. Susan Senator and Kim Stagliano have powerful posts about it today as well.

Moi ;) said...

Thanks MOM - I got some other thing when I cut and pasted the link into my browser before. Maybe they took it down for a while and put it back up....

MOM-NOS said...

MothersVox also has a great post on the subject.

MOM-NOS said...

There's a great article in the Richmond, Virginia Times-Dispatch today called Experts: Autism not the cause.

Kim Stagliano said...

One tiny bright spot of hope from this tragedy is that it has brought together the disparate voices of autism like nothing I've ever seen. That feels pretty good to me. We all kids our autistic kids goodnight and pray for the best for them. So, for today we kind of hold hands and hold good thoughts for our kids. We can bicker as adults - but it's the kids I think about. All of them. Maybe we've realized we're in this autism boat together - even if you're on the lido deck and I'm on the "poop" deck. ;)

Kim "Crapisode" Stagliano